LightSquared might take legal action over GPS

The company said GPS receivers using its spectrum aren't protected from interference

LightSquared may take legal action if it is denied permission to build its planned LTE network because of concerns over interference between that network and GPS, an executive said Monday.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said it won't allow LightSquared to operate the LTE network unless it can prove the interference problems have been solved. Many vendors and users of GPS (Global Positioning System) equipment have lobbied the FCC to keep LightSquared from running its LTE network in its assigned spectrum, which is close to that used by GPS devices.

GPS backers say such a network would degrade or block GPS service because its signals would be much more powerful than the satellite transmissions used for GPS. LightSquared says the problem was caused by GPS vendors that knew as far back as 2001 that there would be a terrestrial mobile network operating in frequencies their devices used.

The carrier is trying to work with the GPS industry to solve the problem, allowing the FCC to approve the network, said Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared's vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy. He spoke on a conference call with reporters Monday.

"If it is impossible to get a decision on this that allows us to go forward, I think our way forward is pretty clear, that we then have to insist on our legal rights," Carlisle said. "If you have to be the bad guy, and go out and start ... insisting on your property line, well, then that's what we'll do."

Carlisle did not elaborate on what action LightSquared might take, but he said the FCC's basic rules on interference can't protect the GPS receivers in this case.

"You can build a receiver that looks outside your band, but if you have the effect of receiving interference from authorized services, and our service is an authorized service, you're not entitled to protection," Carlisle said.

Carlisle's comments on Monday echoed an open letter by LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, published in newspapers last week, that referred to devices that "inappropriately violate our licensed spectrum."

However, some attorneys who specialize in wireless issues question whether LightSquared could sue the GPS industry over what receivers do on its network. There are legal remedies available, including through the FCC, when unauthorized transmitters send signals on licensed frequencies, but none for devices that only receive, said Maury Mechanick, an attorney at White & Case.

"LightSquared certainly has every right to contend that GPS chose not to install appropriate filtering, and should bear the burden of solving the problem. But it cannot sue manufacturers for building GPS devices that are vulnerable to interference," said Paul Sinderbrand, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

The carrier's tougher language may be intended to get GPS backers to the bargaining table. In a statement last weekend, LightSquared claimed it had committed nearly $160 million to solving the interference problem and called on the industry to recall and fix receivers at its own cost. Last month, LightSquared had said it wasn't planning to help fund retrofits for precision GPS devices except those owned by the government. That position was probably intended as its opening gambit in a possible negotiation with the industry, Mechanick said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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Tags legaltelecommunication4gsatelliteCarriersU.S. Federal Communications CommissionCivil lawsuitsLightSquared

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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